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Students warned over sports club work

Physiotherapy students who take on part-time work with sports clubs should take care not to put themselves at risk, the CSP has warned.

The Society says students can gain valuable work experience with clubs providing they do not work unsupervised or beyond their scope of practice.

Margaret Revie, chair of the CSP’s professional practice committee, said: ‘I want our students to be able to take up opportunities but am anxious to protect them from the pitfalls that are in these situations.’

She spoke out following concerns raised by Leon Palmer-Wilson, a student at King’s College London, who is a member of the CSP’s communications group. A former county footballer who recently qualified as a sports masseur, he notified the CSP after sounding out football clubs about work experience.

He told Frontline: ‘I had eight offers from semi-professional football clubs – five of them asked me to be their first-team physio and said they’d pay me. One club asked me to come along and do pitch-side for the reserves unsupervised.’

Mr Palmer-Wilson said there was misunderstanding of student physios’ skill levels, with the risk of them being hired ‘on the cheap’, for unsuitable work. He said: ‘Many clubs, certainly at the lower level, either don’t have a physio at all, or have what you call a bucket-and-sponge man: if somebody hurts their back they’ll have no idea what to do.’

After receiving advice from the CSP, Mr Palmer-Wilson is now working part time with a football club as a ‘number two/masseur/assistant coach’.

‘I’m basically assessing and treating patients but I’m not compromising my insurance because I’m under supervision. I’ve got a senior there to speak to,’ he explained.

Ms Revie said students should be aware of the potential risks they run by working with sports clubs. If they were working unsupervised and caused injury they would not be able to defend their actions and could be struck off by the Health Professions Council, she said. She said students should read the terms of their insurance and be aware of the work situation they may be going into.

She confirmed students were covered by insurance if they worked directly under a qualified physio or ‘other suitably qualified professional’. They would not be covered if they worked alone or not under the direct guidance of a professional. ‘They should definitely not be pitch-side,’ Ms Revie said.

She told Frontline: ‘They must be aware of the limits of their scope of practice and not be tempted to work outside them.

If challenged on their actions, they must be able to prove they used clinical reasoning for the treatment they gave and were competent to perform it.’

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